Showing posts with label Peanut Island. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peanut Island. Show all posts

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Peanut Island, Trevor, and Politics

Tuesday’s weather was one of those travelogue-featured Florida days, relatively low humidity, light winds out of the east, temperature reaching the mid-80’s, just a perfect day for boating, especially as the weekdays features light “boat traffic.”  It’s gotten to the point where I will not even go out on a weekend when the “crazies” seize the waterways, their uneducated or inconsiderate boat handling making for dangerous, uncomfortable going at times.  Being responsible for one’s wake is unheeded by many.

But I’ve digressed.  So Tuesday dawned a beautiful day, a day to be on the water, to escape the constant political drumbeat, and to enjoy what led us to Florida in the first place.  Ann was busy, so that meant going out on my own.  In this area, there are a few choices for a solitary journey.  First, go up or down the Intracoastal or go out into the ocean and do the same.  In other words, take a ride, but that doesn’t appeal to me anymore unless I’m taking someone who would like to see the sights.  Another option is to drop a hook at an anchorage, probably in northern Lake Worth, sit in the shade of the tee top, and read.  I can go swimming off the boat, but prefer someone with me to do that although I normally have no difficulty getting off or on the boat.  The third, more preferable option is to go to a beach, only reachable by boat, in that case either Munyon Island or Peanut Island.  The latter is further and the boat needed a run anyhow, so off to Peanut I went.

It was the right decision as the island was mostly deserted……just what I sought, some peace and quiet.  Brought a sandwich and some Perrier, tied the boat up at the floating docks in the Peanut Island Boat basin, and then walked the quarter mile or so to “my” beach, with a beach chair and reading material. This consisted first of the Wall Street Journal which to me nowadays is “light” reading except for a few articles and the second collection of short stories by William Trevor who I haven’t returned to ever since the election and getting sucked into the abyss of political news.  Time to turn to an old friend to accompany me on my island and forget about everything else.

His second short story anthology Selected Stories consists of ones he wrote later in life, many when he was my age, so I particularly relate to them. As an “Anglo-Irish” writer his shift seems to be more towards where he grew up, Ireland, and not where he lived most of his adult life, England.   He is indeed an Irish story teller.

After a swim (or more like floating) in the clear Bahamian-like waters of Peanut Island, passing by the “Waterway Grille” at a mooring (want pizza at the beach? - just tie your boat up to this houseboat), I had my lunch and dispensed with the WSJ and then settled down with my companion, William Trevor.  

I read and pretty much reread his story Widows, classic Trevor, a story about a slice of life of persons of no particular interest, attribute, or fame, everyman in his naked self.  The story starts off with such a memorable line, immediately bringing you into the story: Waking on a warm, bright morning in early October, Catherine found herself a widow.” Her husband, Mathew, died in his sleep right next to her.  Then in one sentence you get a good idea of both of them:  Quiet, gently spoken, given to thought before offering an opinion, her husband had been regarded by Catherine as cleverer and wiser than she was herself, and more charitable in his view of other people. 

He was well thought of, organized and professional as a seller of agricultural equipment.  He even anticipated the inevitable day when they would be separated by death: Matthew had said more than once, attempting to anticipate the melancholy of their separation: they had known that it was soon to be.  He would have held the memories to him if he’d been the one remaining. ‘Whichever is left,’ he reminded Catherine as they grew old, ‘it’s only for the time being.’…Matthew had never minded talking about their separation, and had taught her not to mind either.

It is not until the funeral that we are introduced to another key character, the other widow (after all the title of the short story is Widows) and that person is Catherine’s sister, Alicia.  She had been living in the house with Catherine and Matthew since her own philandering husband had died nine years earlier.  So there is now the contrast of a happy marriage and Alicia’s unhappy on.  The sisters are now alone in the house.  Alicia is the older, and their relationship seems to be reverting into one before their marriages, the older helping, guiding the younger.

Until the other major character emerges, a painter, Mr. Leary, who brought no special skill to his work and was often accused of poor workmanship, which in turn led to disputes about payment.  Weeks after the funeral he comes by the house to discuss an outstanding bill, an embarrassment because of the death.  He explains that work he had done for Matthew on the house, for cash, £226 to be exact, had not been paid.  Catherine clearly remembers withdrawing the money in that exact amount for Matthew to give to him, and even has the bank records to that effect, but Mr. Leary asks whether she had a receipt.  Mrs. Leary always issued a receipt and there was none in her receipt book.  Are you sure the money was delivered to Mrs. Leary?  The reader is left with the insinuation that perhaps Matthew used the money for something tawdry or at least careless.  Catherine and her sister think that this is just a clever scheme by the Leary’s to be double paid.  She ignores it for awhile but still ponders the possible reasons and then a statement is delivered by mail that the amount is past due.  And that’s part of the genius and wonderment of the story: we never really know whether it was paid or not and if not why (although one is left with the feeling it was).

Catherine is tortured by this knowing a statement will come month after month and finally declares to her sister her intention to pay the bill (probably again).  Catherine was paying money in case, somehow, the memory of her husband should be accidentally tarnished.  And knowing her sister well, Alicia knew that this resolve would become more stubborn as more time passed.  It would mark and influence her sister; it would breed new eccentricities in her.  If Leary had not come that day there would have been something else.

So, in a sharp turn in the story, the spotlight now shines on the relationship between the sisters. This is another Trevor technique of shifting the story suddenly to the real one: an old power struggle to a degree, Alicia being the older and when they were younger considered the more beautiful.  Why shouldn’t things return to the way they were? The disagreement between the sisters, to pay or not, reaches a climax one night.  They did not speak again, not even to say goodnight.  Alicia closed her bedroom door, telling herself crossly that her expectation had not been a greedy one.  She had been unhappy in her foolish marriage, and after it she had been beholden in this house.  Although it ran against her nature to do so, she had borne her lot without complaint; why should she not fairly have hoped that in widowhood they would again be sisters first of all?....By chance, dishonesty had made death a potency for her sister, as it had not been when she was widowed herself.  Alicia had cheated it of its due; it took from her now, as it had not then.” Talk about great writing.  That last sentence is a gem.  And that is what Trevor’s writing is all about, the commonplace, but those profound moments in each “everyman’s” life.

So, my day at Peanut passed with natural beauty and my renewed “friendship” with William Trevor, to be revisited as time permits.  I packed up, walked back to the boat, the late afternoon sun now beating heavily, boarded the boat and went north on Lake Worth back to my dock to clean up the boat and get ready for dinner with friends.  It was a day away from Twitter and current news so it was not until I got into the car with our friends that I learned that FBI Director James Comey was abruptly fired by Trump, the details of which as we get deeper and deeper into it are as bizarre as any fiction I’ve read.

It seems to me that the next few days are decisive as to whether we will (as we have up to now) accept this as the "new normal" or some courageous Republican Senators draw the line at this and insist on a special prosecutor.    If you switch back and forth between Fox and MSNBC you would think we are living on two different planets.  The assistant White House press secretary was waxing eloquently that the decision was oh so, so, swift and decisive.  Just her kind of man!

The disingenuous letter from Trump cited the “recommendations” of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.  The latter said Comey should be fired because of the way he handled Hillary Clinton emails!  But the most bewildering part of Trump’s firing letter is the following sentence:  “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”  In other words, I’m firing you because of how you helped me get elected, not because you are leading the investigation into my ties to Russia, and I need to get a partisan FBI director who will do my bidding.

Here's hoping our Republic survives instead of stealthily slipping into an obedient dictatorship.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A 'Honey Fitz' New Year

What delightful serendipity, going out on my boat with “the kids” before the end of the year, on the Intracoastal, and encountering JFK’s Presidential Yacht, the Honey Fitz a 92-foot motor yacht built in 1931 by the Defoe Boat Works in Bay City, Michigan.  Although five US Presidents have cruised the vessel, it was JFK who took to her and thus the vessel will forever be associated with him. The full story is recounted by the JFK Library.  The Honey Fitz is stately, classic, and apt for the time when the Office of the Presidency was as well. 

Our preNew Year’s cruise took us around Peanut Island and past the Kennedy bunker on the island, built for him during the cold war and was in readiness during the Cuban missile crisis.  His part-time home in Palm Beach mandated the bunker which can still be visited.  See this nifty one minute video for the full story and to see the interior.  Undoubtedly, the furnishings are too primitive for the President-elect (alas, nothing gold-plated).

After the Honey Fitz was retired for Presidential service, it finally became a charter vessel and the full story of how it was refitted to meet Coast Guard specifications for such use is told here.

We closed out the year by watching the last sunrise of 2016 over the Atlantic.  Hopefully, 2017 and the next four years will be good to all. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Other Side of Memorial Day

Previous Memorial Day entries have been about what the "holiday" really means to me, and it still does --  what our service men and women sacrificed to make this country great (in spite of our problems).  It makes me think of my father who fought in WW II, and friends, Ray, Ron, Bruce, who served in Vietnam.  I've always abhorred the other side of the day, the commercial part of it, but it does signal the "start" of the summer season and I suppose one has to accept that along with the true meaning.  So contrary to my other entries, this is mostly a photo album of a trip we took yesterday around Peanut Island, which has become a party island during the Memorial Day weekend. 

There seem to be two groups of boaters there, young families and then large groups of young people who are there to "seriously" party.  Ironically, Palm Beach County has an new ordinance that makes drinking on the island itself a misdemeanor, so that is the safe place where the families can congregate.  But it is legal to drink "off the island" so hundreds and hundreds of boats are anchored, beached, rafted around the island -- mostly party hardy types -- downing booze like there is no tomorrow.  No Memorial Day thoughts there and amazing, these same people get in their boats and go back to wherever they came from that same day.  So it's not OK to drink on the island, but OK to pilot your boat home drunk (there are marine police about, but how many boats can they check on their way out?).

The partiers look at us, two old folk in a boat, as a relic species, a societal vestigial organ, and perhaps we are, although when we were that age, we might have thought the aged eccentric, but always treated them with respect.  Perhaps that is a word (respect) that has become extinct in our society in many ways. 

Is it any wonder that a study by the Yale School of Public Health of entries in Facebook by individuals in the 20-29 age range found:

     74 percent berated older individuals
     41 percent mentioned physical debilitation
     27 percent treated the elderly as children, and
     37 percent advocated banning them from public activities such as driving and shopping.

One group even advocated facing a firing squad when one turns 69. Guess my time is up!

So, with that in mind, we planned a trip to reconnoiter the scene, choosing to leave our home during the noon hour, knowing that we would be returning well before the worst of the mayhem. (In fact, this year some fights broke out while "under the influence.")

Even though we left early, the boat traffic was already heavy and some Florida boaters don't seem to be aware that even in "speed zones" such as Lake Worth, they are responsible their own wake.  Entering the Lake, immediately south of the PGA bridge I try to time my run so I am either well behind or well ahead of the big sportfishes and yachts that run the Lake as if they own the water and everyone else be damned. This still puts us at the mercy of these large vessels approaching us, the greatest danger being when we are between two markers and can't run outside of them.  I'm amazed that these boats don't slow down to give a smaller boat a safer passageway, but most don't.  I had a 41' Hatteras approach us at full bore which left six foot wakes, tightly spaced and with curlers on top, ones I had to take on my port quarter.  Although we took these off of plane, there were a few anxious moments.  We knew the Lake would be rough and I knew our boat could take it, but the boat seems to take it better than our backs.  Unfortunately, between piloting our boat and hanging on, it is impossible to get photos of these inconsiderate, dangerous boats or their wakes. 

But, thankfully, it is slow speed all around Peanut Island and although we had boats on both sides, and ones approaching from all angles, it is fairly easy to navigate, although, again, many Florida boaters seem to lack knowledge of the rules of the road and what it means for the burdened vessel to give way or for the privileged vessel to maintain course and speed.

So here are a few photos of our trip.  First, leaving the placid waters just south of the PGA bridge..

Entering Lake Worth, traffic coming at us, going south...

After passing under the Blue Heron bridge, one beholds Peanut Island on the North Side....

Looking east, rafting on the northern sandbar of Peanut....

This is what the rafting looked like on the Northwest side of Peanut...

Heading south along Peanut's west side....

Tent colony on Peanut's west side (overnight tenting is permitted in designated areas and they are immune from the law that does not permit drinking on the island...go figure)

On the south side of the island, the old Coast Guard station and the West Palm ferry...

Larger boats on the northeast side of Peanut....

Passing Sailfish Marina which is to the east of Peanut -- home to some large sportfishes...

And the rafting goes on and on -- here on the northeastern sand bar right near the narrow channel...

There are some derelict boats near the Island, but this one is someone's home...

Finally, home, and our safely boat in its lift, a paddler surfboarder goes by with a doggie on the bow (wow!)...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hubris at Sea

"Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power."...Wikipedia.   Hubris and boating are a deadly mix.

Sunk: The Incredible Truth About a Ship That Never Should Have Sailed  tells the nightmarish story of the replica ship HMS Bounty's last days at sea, and the events leading up to her Captain's decision (Robin Walbridge) to put out to sea as monster storm Sandy was making its way up the coast.  As the investigation is not yet completed, perhaps "hubris" is the wrong word, but this thorough, unbelievable account published by Outside Magazine seems to point that way.  Captain Walbridge charisma enlisted the support of his crew in his decision to depart New London, CT in advance of the storm, the ultimate objective to sail to St. Petersburg, FL, some 1,400 nautical miles away.

As the article recounts, the HMS Bounty was a ship with a long history of difficulties.  It was a money pit with unceasing hull leakage and engine systems that one crew member described as “definitely patched together.” (Thus it could never be certified by the Coast Guard as a seagoing passenger vessel.) On the other hand, Walbridge had challenged bad weather before, and always came through.  The crew was well aware of that and apparently were willing to follow him to hell.

The plan "was to sail due east, wait for Sandy to turn toward land, and then push the vessel into the storm’s southeast quadrant, where hurricane winds are usually weakest. Why he so quickly abandoned that idea once at sea remains a mystery."  As soon as the ship rounded Montauk Point, it made a heading of 165 degrees,  south by southeast, right into the fury of Sandy.

The harrowing account of the rescue of most of the crew by the Coast Guard is told here in detail.  Unfortunately, in addition to never recovering Captain Walbridge who went down with his beloved ship, one crew member died, the least experienced of all, Claudene Christian, who was reportedly the great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Fletcher Christian, the acting Master who led the famous Mutiny on the Bounty in the 18th century.  Such is normally the stuff of fiction. 

The replica HMS Bounty was made for the 1962 movie with Marlon Brando.  "The ship was supposed to be burned for the film’s final scene. Hollywood legend has it that Brando threatened to walk off the set if the vessel was destroyed."  So began its long history as a moored attraction vessel with Robin Walbridge as the driving force in preserving it -- all the more inexplicable his decision which ultimately led to the Bounty's demise and his own untimely death.  As I said in my entry on the Costa Concordia disaster, "whether you are piloting a large ship or your own recreational vessel, most nautical disasters are the result of its Captain being overconfident." 

During its lifetime, it sailed to many destinations, sometimes to Europe but mostly the Northeast coast, Florida, and the Caribbean.  We've seen her before during our own trips, most recently in Puerto Rico last year.  In 2009 she visited Peanut Island at the Lake Worth inlet in West Palm Beach, and my son, Jonathan, and I went to see her.  Farewell, HMS Bounty.